What a whirlwind of a week. Some weeks here are good, some are not so good, and most are a mix of the two, but this week was almost beyond comprehension.
It started last Sunday. My husband and I had just come back down the mountain from dropping off food for Katia, the girl with the burnt hand. It broke my heart when we got there and we saw that two of the four children were missing. I asked where the other two daughters were and the mom said "they're off...they're out...I don't know exactly". I attempted to keep my cool and asked, "what do you mean you don't know?". She proceeds to tell me that she didn't think she had enough money or space to take care of them anymore, so she chose to let her youngest son (3) and Katia stay with her, and sent the other ones "away".
Away. That doesn't mean they're loved and cared for in an orphanage somewhere. That means they are on their own, fending for themselves for everything: where they sleep each night, the food they get or don't get; they are on their own. 6 years old and 12 years old. I could have rung her neck right then and there, but then I suppose I would have been no better than her husband who held Katia's hand to the fire.
Two girls I have grown to love and care for...who I spent months with, learning Creole from, making sure they had enough food and water, got them set up in a home, my children literally giving the clothes off of their backs for them....I have no idea where these two precious girls are now. I actually have no idea if they are alive or not. This mother just sends them away.
But that is Haiti: where nothing makes sense and nothing is fair. Nothing makes sense in this country. In the way they live life, the way they think, what they do, how they do it, what has been done to them, the way the government runs-it makes absolute no sense to me, drives me mad, exhausts me, discourages me, and ultimately wears me down.
It was incredible seeing Katia though; she is so beautiful and so strong. Before we came back to Haiti in January we had found Jesus Storybook Bibles in Creole on Amazon so we snagged a bunch and gave her one of them. I sat there reading a story to her, neighbors all listening and watching. I can't help but think that was very likely the very first time anyone has ever read her a story...ever.
After we spent some time there, Tass and I left to begin making preparations to come back to the states. We were flying to the states Tuesday, had a long layover in NYC planned with our girls, and then on to Sacramento in time for a big family wedding.
We went back to our place to get things organized and ready. To be honest, I was ready to leave. The weeks prior had been difficult. This second round has been in some ways easier than the first, and in some ways much harder. Harder because there is a bit more hostility we are sensing from some of the people in our community. We could write an entire book on why that may be the case, but for the sake of time, let me just say that there is more hostility-partially due to the fact that NGO's don't have the best reputation in Haiti. Most people don't have TV's, but they do have radios and through the radio propaganda is spread, and lies get planted, and before you know it, people are chucking wood and stones at us because they think we are trying to bring them back into slavery. Mix that with the dark, very strong, very powerful ties to voodoo, and you've got some major hostility. Some people are so angry at us-and they can't even say why...they just are. Some people hate us. Some attempt to put curses on our team members.
Light and darkness. It's as simple as that.
And I had been feeling it. I had been feeling the darkness for weeks. Last year I honestly didn't give much credence to it. I thought, "ok, you guys do your thing, I'll do mine." But this year has been much different. Our thing is infringing on their's, and their thing is trying to wreak havoc with ours.
Here's the thing: the people of Haiti wouldn't do voodoo if there wasn't actual power in it. They wouldn't be entrenched in this darkness, century after century, if it didn't at least do something. Sure, they can pray to God in the morning if they are sick. But if God does not heal them by noon, they know they can go to the witch doctor and he will make them some sort of potion or spell, and they will be healed. They know if they are angry with someone, they can go pay the witch doctor to put a curse on them and that person will come down with some sort of sickness and die. Curses are very real, and very real in Haiti. There is power in darkness. And my mistake, I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to it last year.
It had been wearing on many of our team members these last few weeks actually (and still is). From the voodoo witch doctor that lives down the street from our orphanage, to a road block being set up in our village now, sticks and stones being thrown, to even a knife being pulled on me while I was walking (I mean, it was a baby knife, not a machete....but still).
The darkness was wearing on me, and I was ready for some America (which of course has its own darkness, but completely more subtle and camouflaged). Sunday was winding down, and Tass and I were just starting to get things planned and organized for our departure, when someone sent me a video and I opened it up to see what it was. Someone had filmed a Haitian man with his hands tied behind his back, his neck had been crushed on the rocks but he was still moving and breathing. I tried to see if I recognized him and before I could get a close look, another man with a machete starting whacking away at his neck and decapitating him. I closed it immediately and didn't finish watching but handed my phone to Tass. He couldn't finish it either and deleted it off my phone. I have never in my life wished so badly that I could unsee something. A whole new level of sickness came over me-a nauseousness I had never felt before.
From that moment on, it was a rapid downhill for me. I spiked a high fever, became extremely dehydrated very quickly, and by the time Monday morning came, I couldn't move and I could barely speak I was so weak.
As out of it as I was, I was thankfully coherent enough to know that I needed two things: I needed an IV in me fast and we needed some intercession. Tass called one of our friends and she came and put an IV in me. It helped some. A Haitian doctor came down and saw me and said I had "a parasite or something". Based on my symptoms, and obviously our access to the internet and our American doctors, they were saying I had Dysentery (there's one classic and obvious sign of Dysentery...please spare me the embarrassment of saying what it is-if you don't know just google it :)
Doctor gave me a few meds, but of course without proper testing, and absolutely no idea what had caused the Dysentery, I didn't feel confident taking the meds until we could figure out what bacteria or parasite was causing this. Plus generally with antibiotics and other meds, I'm just trading one symptom for another as they cause a whole host of side effects for me.
Our flight was planned for the next morning. All I could pray was that I had enough strength to travel to the airport and to New York. That's all I wanted. We contacted my mom and one of my dear friends back in Roseville. Lots of prayers and intercession went up, and within two hours my fever had broken in a huge pile of sweat (just as fast as it had come on), I was able to get up and move, even take a shower. Literally was a miracle. I have never in my life be so sick so fast and then felt better so quickly.
I was still a bit weak and wasn't able to get up the hill and say goodbye to all of the kids at the orphanage which broke my heart, but I was able to get up and move around our room and even help Tass pack a little.
By morning, I was even better. We were planing on leaving at 8:00am, but the Haitians were at the protesting again-starting their roadblocks very early, so we had to beat them before they blocked the road to the airport.
We made it in time, got the airport, got to JFK, got up and down the subway with 7 pieces of luggage, 2 kids, a for the most part out of commission wife, and a very stressed out husband. Got to our hotel, and we all crashed.
The next day, I attempted to do some typical New York stuff with the kids and Tass and try to enjoy our extra long layover (as the girls and I have never been to the city)...
but halfway through I just couldn't make it. I knew I needed to see a doctor. We went to an urgent care and the doctor there ordered a whole panel of blood work and samples. My iron was pretty low, obviously from losing a decent amount of blood,(which I'm sure was contributing to me being so weak). I'm deficient in some areas (which I'm sure all four of us are), and they prescribed me some different medications (which of course I will replace with EO's). Still waiting on the longer test results to come back, which should be back by today.
We flew back to Sacramento a few days ago and made it just in time for a big family wedding over the weekend. It was nice to see so many, although I wish I had had more energy. I'm slowly starting to get my energy back, and one of the biggest things I'm grateful for is just the ability to think clearly. Something comes over me in Haiti and I literally can't think straight. It is the strangest thing. Cloudy, foggy, tired, inarticulate, hot, sweaty, exhausted. I just can't think very well there. I am grateful to feel like myself again and to feel capable of putting together somewhat cohesive sentences.
Over the next few weeks our family plans to rest, recuperate, regain some strength and momentum, and head back to Haiti early April. I know, I know. People think we are crazy. Maybe we are. My grandfather has tried multiple times to bribe me with a large sum of money and a promise never to return to Haiti again. But we can't ignore our family's calling. We can't. We are called to serve there. I know it. I know it with every fiber in my being. Sometimes I wish I didn't know it! Ha. Do we need to be even more prepared and equipped this time? For sure. We plan on doing so while we are here these next few weeks. Yes there is much darkness there, but we are carrying the light and darkness cannot overpower light. The week before all this started we had a team with us from Virginia and North Carolina. The team leader is a Dr of psychology and a pastor. He spoke a brief but powerful message the Sunday he was here, simply saying that our job as christians in Haiti is to be like lampposts and to punch holes in the darkness. As more lamps are lit, and more lamps are brought, the light will increase, and the darkness will diminish. That is why we are going back.
Thank you to the hundreds of you who prayed for me Sunday and Monday. I am forever grateful, and I absolutely know it's what got me on the plane Tuesday. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I don't even know many of you who prayed, so those that did...please give them my love and gratitude.
We of course would love to see many of you while we're home. Just shoot Tass or myself a text and we will try to make it happen.
Love you all,
Sheena & Family